Padres Prospect Interview: Brad Brach

Closing games is San Diego Padres prospect Brad Brach's speciality. He comes through just like Trevor Hoffman did for years with the big league club. What's left on the improvement front for the right-hander?

Last year, it seemed like there was some struggles in non-save situations. Is that the adrenaline, like you need to pump yourself up even more because you know it's a non-save and it's less pressure?

Brad Brach: To be honest with you, I didn't even know about that until I was looking back at the season. Maybe it is something in the back of my mind, but honestly, when I went out there, I tried to look at it the same way every single time. I tried to see a one-one situation every time I went out there just to make it a little easier on myself mentally. I didn't even know that until looking back and reviewing. I noticed that it was a non-save situation where most of my runs were given up, or almost all of them, really. It might have just been a coincidence. Maybe it is something, when I'm preparing the bullpen, I need to focus more on. But, when I went out there, I felt the same.

You had one blown save all year. I guess, technically two, with the playoffs. Talk about that. That's a phenomenal ratio, one or two.

Brad Brach: To me, I just had a good mental approach last year. When I went out there, I was so focused on what I needed to do and get done. I didn't think about anything else. I just went out there and did my job. It made it a lot easier on myself. I know in my first couple of outings in the AZL, I just caught up thinking about too much stuff. I just went out there and said, ‘Forget it. Just look at the glove.' I looked at whatever sign they gave me, and put all my conviction right toward that spot. That's pretty much what happened last year, and I was able to do it pretty successfully.

How did the spring go? Was there something you wanted to work on perfecting this spring?

Brad Brach: It went pretty well. The first two outings, I felt like my fast ball was off just slightly, just by an inch or two. I've been working on the splitter. I'm really trying to get that as another outpitch with my slider, more to lefties than to righties. Just to have a second outpitch that can really help if they recognize a slider in my hand. They may not see the splitter as much.

We talk about closers a lot of times. You see the guys. They're like cardiac kids. You had a lot of one-two-three innings. Perhaps, the most in the organizations, as far as closers go. That's pretty rare.

Brad Brach: I almost look at it like I'm so aggressive toward the hitter that I just want to get out of there as quickly as I possibly can. I was lucky enough for it to work out last year that way. That's just the way I push, just go out there and attack every single hitter, make them hit my best pitch. I just go right at them. It really helped me. It worked pretty well last year.

Doug Dascenzo says your fast ball plays higher. What does that mean?

Brad Brach: I don't know, because I haven't hit in a while. A couple of catchers have told me, Robert Lara has told me a few times that I kind of hide the ball as it's going towards home plate. I think it's just one of those things that maybe I just hide a little better. It comes in at low-90s at times, and I'm taller and can get on top of it. It comes from a different angle than hitters are normally seeing. Maybe it feels like 94 or 95. Whatever it was, I'm hoping it can continue.

You talked about the splitter before. What's the key to that progression and to making that a useful pitch?

Brad Brach: I think the key is just feeling comfortable with it. Right now, I feel comfortable with it in the pen, when I'm throwing it on the sides. But when I get in the game, I can still feel myself… Even yesterday, when I got two strikes, it was, ‘Don't throw this by the catcher…'

I've got to get that mentality out of my head, and just throw it. I know when I throw in the pen and on the sides, that they're really good. It's just a real late break on the knee. I think the other thing is I've got to start focusing on a focal point, because I don't have one right now. I've got to find somewhere that works, where it starts at the hitter's thigh and drops into the dirt. It's just one of those things. I'm learning on the go, since it's a new pitch. It's just one of those things I've just got to learn as I'm going here, and hopefully it gets better the more I throw it.

You're a fast talker, and fast on the mound. You have a quick tempo. What advantage does that give you?

Brad Brach: I think it's just doesn't allow the hitter to get comfortable. He's got to be ready to go from the time that I'm ready to go. I don't give him any time to think in between pitches. It's just on the mound, go. That's another thing that I didn't really know until last year when I had the coaches tell me that. They said, ‘You know, you work really fast.' I really didn't know that. I knew in college, I had a good tempo, but not as fast as this.

When I get out there, I just want to get the ball and go. It's one of those things that I just love seeing the sign thrown. Seeing the sign, getting it, and throwing it. Not being able to think anything. I feel when you think too much, that's when bad things happen as a pitcher. Just get the ball, and throw it. Just do it.

It seemed like -- maybe this was for the splitter – that you almost dropped your arm a little when you were throwing it. Is that a fair assessment?

Brad Brach: Yeah. That's what TB (pitching coach Tom Bradley) used to tell me, that I drop. When I was warming up, he'd tell me that I would drop. That's one thing that when I came to the instruction league in the fall that's one thing I really tried to work on, just tried to focus on the same angle as the fast ball. That's one of the things that I've been definitely trying to do, to stay on top. When I drop to the side, he said it's really noticeable. If he can notice it from behind, then the hitter can obviously see it.

That's definitely true. One thing that Grady Fuson said, and obviously he's moved on, is that there's no glaring weakness with Brad Brach. When you hear something like that, regardless of who it's coming from, that's pretty big praise.

Brad Brach: Yeah, if you hear that from anybody in the organization, whether it's a pitching coach and obviously that's Grady saying that, that's pretty impressive. That's one of the things I take pride in. There are no glaring weaknesses, but there's always stuff you want to make stronger. I can definitely see some things I want to make better as the season goes along and as my career goes along. That's definitely not too bad for your first full season, to have somebody to say something like that about you.

What are your 2010 goals?

Brad Brach: Just to continue what I did last year. Just try to have a similar type season. Maybe not the exact numbers, because that's a bit much to ask for. I want to close every single game. My goal is to not blow a save this year. It might sound a little ridiculous, but I think I can do it. Last year, I just had that one bad outing. If I can replace that with one good one, I'll have year I'm looking for. I want to hopefully move up this year, at least make one jump this year.

We all know you have a lot of great teammates and this does not take away from anyone you don't mention. If you could have one pitch from anyone of your teammates to put into your own arsenal, what would it be, from who, and why?

Brad Brach: That's a good question. I've seen Aaron Breit's curveball. His curveball or Simon Castro's slider. Definitely one of those two. Those are two pitches that I've seen in the last couple days that are just… Some of those Castro sliders are just filthy. You can take anybody out in any situation. If I could take that, I think it would definitely help.

Who is the one hitter that you are glad you have as a teammate and why?

Brad Brach: You put me on the spot here… Jaff Decker, I like up there. Cole Figueroa, too. The game's on the line, he had some big hits. I like Dan Robertson and Blake Tekotte on early in the lineup, because they get on, get guys over, and score. I know that's not one guy, but those four guys did a really good job last year as hitters.

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